This is a guest post from Mitch Joel — President, Twist Image and author of “Six Pixels of Separation.” His new book “CTRL ALT DEL” comes out in May 2013. See the original post this is adapted from and more like it on his blog.
What is art?
It’s a question that has been asked for as long as humans have done acts of creativity — from painting on cave walls to the architecture that surrounds us. Music is art and so to is the work that many of us do. While trying to find a true definition for “art” may be more difficult and challenging than one might suspect, I tend to define art as something that moves you. Granted, it’s a simplistic viewpoint, but it helps reconcile good art from bad art. If a work of art is bad, it still moves you towards a feeling. Say what you will about Salvador Dali or Frank Lloyd Wright (you can love ’em… you can hate ’em), but their work does move you, and their work is art. Remember, one person’s Motorhead is another person’s Lady Gaga. Art is personal and highly subjective (think about Dogs Playing Poker).
Does your work move you… or anybody else?
One of the reasons I love social media so much (and, more specifically, blogging) is the instant feedback you can get from it. Write a blog post that moves people and it suddenly gets tweeted up on Twitter or someone shares a link to it on Facebook. It may generate comments on the blog or inspire someone to write a blog post of their own. It could get popular on a site like Reddit. Traditional mass media journalists may even call you up to be interviewed about it. A magazine or newspaper might be so moved by it, that they offer you an opportunity to write for them. Your words might inspire an organization to invite you to come in to talk about your blog post to their audience. Who knows, a book publisher or literary agent might be so moved that they put a book offer in front you. Your words might even inspire a company to take action and hire you as their consultant or agency.
Things move very fast in the social media spaces.
Whatever you create is published instantly for the world to see, and what the world sees and how they are moved is there too for all to see. No, this isn’t about creating something and quantifying the success of it based on how many people are moved by it, but it is one of the ways to keep score. If people aren’t moved by what you’re creating, what does that say to you? If more and more people aren’t moved by what you’re doing, what does that say to you? If you’re constantly and consistently putting out your best work and it’s not connecting/finding an audience, what does that say to you?
Moving people creates movements.
The truth is that a lot of the content that is created and consumed online is — for lack of a better word — “vanilla.” It’s generic and it hardly moves people (let alone moving any needles). Look no further than the industry we serve: marketing. Think about how creative, innovative, and powerful the work that we do is (at a core level, we’re trying to connect more and more people with the brands that we serve/nurture). In all of these channels and new media spaces, isn’t it astonishing how little of it actually moves people? And, when I say “move,” I mean in a deep way.
It’s not about clicks.
Moving someone to click, follow, friend, like, give up their email address, or whatever is not what I’m talking about. Most of the time, this is happening because an individual was incentivized to do so (a discount, status, etc…), not because they were moved by the brand. It’s a shame.
Think about marketing today. Think about the myriad of opportunities we have as marketers to treat the work that we do as art (real art — not marketing messages thinly veiled as art). To think not just about whether or not someone bought our stuff and told others to do so, but to spend time, energy, and focus on actually trying to move people. I don’t know about you, but even if we moved audiences in a negative direction, at least we’re getting some kind of emotion. Think about the brand loyalty that would come from actually moving your audience.
It would be nice to dream of a day — in the not-so-distant future — where marketing shifts and changes to a place where everything that we do as marketers actually moves people. Wouldn’t it?